By Beth Sullivan
On September 21, 2017, our community lost a great lady, a true defender of nature and farsighted conservationist.
Lois Tefft VanDeusen was one of the Founding Mothers of the Mashantucket Land Trust in 1968. The organization’s name was later changed to Avalonia Land Conservancy, which is celebrating 50 years of conservation next year, with greatest thanks to Lois.
As a founder, director, and life member of Avalonia, Lois remained active and connected to the land she loved right until her last years. In 1994 she had the foresight to purchase the large Girl Scout Camp in North Stonington rather than see it be developed into a large tract of homes. She recognized the significance of the ecology and the habitats there and arranged the donation to Avalonia Land Conservancy to be forever preserved and known as Tefftweald at Birchenturn.
As a tribute to Lois, I would like to invite one and all to visit this preserve, hike the trails, and find the spirit of a lovely lady. I described this beautiful place in October of 2015. It is fitting to re-post this in her memory.
Back in 2015 I had not yet described this truly beautiful and special preserve in North Stonington: Tefftweald at Burchenturn.
|A plaque dedicates the meadow as Lily's Lea.|
The entrance to the preserve is down a gravel drive at 282 Grindstone Hill Road. A short way down is an area for parking and a sign describing the area and maps. Maps are also available on line at the Avalonia Web site.
This 77-acre preserve was once a Girl Scout camp, enjoyed by generations of Scouts and families. There are still reminders of those days as there are old outhouses, wood sheds, camp fire pits, gathering places and a lovely pavilion. When the camp came up for sale, resident and Avalonia Land Conservancy founder, Lois Tefft had the vison to purchase the land to preserve it from development. She later generously donated it to Avalonia so many more generations could enjoy it. Thank you to Lois!!
|A stone bench invites you to rest.|
Central in the preserve runs a stonewall-lined lane way with big trees all along. The trails loop off the sides making it easy to explore.
|Follow the trail to a peaceful overlook.|
|Rocky ledges and outcrops are common throughout the preserve.|
The loops to the East take you to uplands with rugged ledges, rocky outcrops and some pretty views from up high, down into the lovely woodlands below. The trails cut through mountain laurel groves that remain green even in winter. We will welcome that in the months to come. One of the Eastern loops goes by a very old cemetery with mostly unmarked stones. It is the Bell York Cemetery, and it would be interesting for someone to do some research, or find if it has already been done, to add to our knowledge base of the preserve.
|Simple, unmarked stones are found in Bell York cemetery.|
Wyassup Brook to the west
The Western loops take you to the Wyassup Brook. This summer it was pretty dry, but at this point in the Autumn, after recent rains, it is likely to be flowing and beautiful. There are also Laurel glens and rocky ledges, small caves and overlooks. There is also the Poet’s Bench Trail which leads to a serene spot to meditate and muse. Maybe make poetry, paint a picture or take photos of the changing moods of the brook. Parts of the Western trails will lead you to the old Scout sites: the Pavilion is a lovely spot for a family picnic, but please carry out what you carry in. It also leads to a site called Lily’s Lea. This is a sweet open meadow which was the site of the Scout gatherings and the old campfire circle remains.
|Wyassup Brook flowed quietly during the drier summer.|
The very southern tip of the brook loop provides an overlook where the brook runs into a beautiful large boggy swamp. There is no access as it is privately owned, but a pair of binoculars certainly is helpful.
Return to parking area along the main trail and you will pass old stone foundations, a root cellar and the walls. Ferns along the path set off the trail as a gorgeous view.
|Several stone foundations hint at the past.|
A must see preserve in any season.
Photographs by Beth Sullivan.